Serena Williams, Michael B. Jordan Invest $1 Million During Startup Competition at Legacy Classic

By Andrew Cohen

Construction industry management app TracFlo won a startup pitch competition held as part of the inaugural Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic HBCU men’s basketball event played Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

 Tennis star Serena Williams and actor Michael B. Jordan partnered with the competition to invest $1 million in TracFlo, whose app streamlines contractor documents and workflow operations for construction projects. The competition aimed to support startups founded by current HBCU students or alumni. 

 Williams invested through her Serena Ventures company, while Jordan contributed through MaC Venture Capital. Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures served as an advisor during the pitch competition, which was sponsored by Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator and Audible. 

 Saturday’s four-team Legacy Classic aired on TNT. The two-game event saw NC Central defeat Delaware State, while Howard University beat North Carolina A&T.

Crypto Firm FTX Is New Exclusive NFT Partner for the Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics

By Andrew Cohen

Cryptocurrency exchange FTX has reached a new multi-year deal with Monumental Sports & Entertainment to become the organization’s exclusive NFT partner. FTX will help launch NFTs for all MSE properties—including the Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals and Washington Mystics. 

 The Wizards mark the second NBA team in as many weeks to partner with FTX, who recently paid a reported $10 million to sponsor the Golden State Warriors, according to CNBC. MSE plans to integrate NFTs into fan engagement initiatives such as loyalty programs and digital commemorative tickets, which the NFL debuted last month.

 “Whether you describe it as NFTs or blockchain programs, I think ticketing is going in that direction,” Jim Van Stone, MSE’s president of business operations & CCO, told SportTechie. “Certainly, collectible tickets are, I think, a no brainer.”  

 MSE opened a Caesars Sportsbook inside its Capital One Arena in May, and Caesars has a jersey patch sponsorship with the Capitals. The organization’s sports betting tie-up is notable given FTX’s interest in sports betting, as the crypto exchange recently attempted to buy sports betting app PlayUp for $450 million.

Gympass Buys Personal Training App Trainiac to Expand Corporate Fitness Offerings

By Andrew Cohen

Corporate wellbeing platform Gympass has bought personal training app Trainiac. The acquisition boosts the number of fitness options available on Gympass, which offers memberships for companies looking to provide their employees with health and fitness benefits. 

 Trainiac pairs users with certified coaches to provide personal fitness programs. Its app shares workout schedules, tracks health metrics and enables video and text communication. In June, Gympass raised a $220 million investment round at a $2.2 billion valuation. 

 Gympass offers access to more than 50,000 gyms and studios, including chains such as Crunch Fitness, SoulCycle and Barry’s—as well as the mental wellness app Calm. Current corporations that use Gympass for their employees include McDonalds, Santander, Accenture, Unilever and KPMG.

English Soccer Club Close to Being Purchased by U.S. Crypto Investors That Include 76ers President Daryl Morey

By Andrew Cohen

Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey is part of a crypto-fueled investor group that is nearing a deal to buy an English soccer team. The group, Wagmi United, has not specified which team it is close to buying, but The Washington Post reported that the club is a member of the English Football League 

 Wagmi was founded by former ESPN sports betting analyst Preston Johnson and NFT entrepreneur Eben Smith, and its investors also include Gary Vaynerchuk. The group announced on Thursday that its transaction would mark the first sale of a professional sports team to be partially financed through cryptocurrency. 

 The investors told the Post that the club plays in one of the two lower EFL levels known as League One and League Two. Wagmi’s website reads “Crypto’s Road to the Premier League,” and the group intends to reinvest money made from NFT sales into analytics that would help the club reach the top level of English soccer. The team has already inked a deal with English sports data provider StatsBomb.

 Wagmi, which stands for “We’re All Gonna Make It,” will make its own crypto tokens to let holders access exclusive fan engagement opportunities—similar to the Socios fan token platform that has swept deals with teams across European soccer, the NBA, NFL and NHL.

 “I’m excited to be a part of it, and I look forward to working with Preston and the rest of the team to make sure our club has the best data and smartest analytics minds available,” Morey, the NBA’s data-driven executive and founder of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, said in a statement. 

NBA Hires Gregg Winik, Executive Producer of Michael Jordan’s Last Dance, to Lead Content Production

By Joe Lemire

Gregg Winik, executive producer of the Michael Jordan docuseries The Last Dance, has been hired as the NBA’s new president of content and executive producer. 

Winik will oversee all live game production and multi-platform programming spanning the league’s many properties: the NBA, WNBA, NBA G League, NBA 2K League and Basketball Africa League. In the hiring announcement, Winik noted the “striking” opportunities that exist with premium direct-to-consumer platforms.

He will report to the NBA’s president of global content and media distribution, Bill Koening.  A 16-year veteran of NBA Entertainment from 1990 to 2006, Winik collaborated with broadcast partners and helped launch NBA TV.

 He left the league to start his own independent studio, Winik Media. In that role, Winik created CineSport, a digital video platform for newspapers. He also helped produce basketball-centric documentaries such as For Ball and Country on NBC’s Peacock about the U.S. men’s basketball team at the Tokyo Olympics.

 The Last Dance, a 10-part docuseries co-produced by ESPN and Netflix, won the 2020 Emmy for outstanding documentary or nonfiction series.

Facebook Gaming Adds Neymar as Exclusive Streaming Partner

Soccer star Neymar has a new deal to stream gaming content exclusively on Facebook. He will host multiple livestreams of himself playing various video games alongside different Facebook Gaming content creators each month. 

The Brazilian national team and Paris-Saint Germain star has more than 254 million global followers on Facebook and Instagram. Neymar’s deal with Facebook is for one year and his first livestream will begin Friday at 2 p.m. ET.

 During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, star athletes such as Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Brittney Griner, Allie Long and Julian Edelman held video game livestreams on Facebook to raise money for charity. In June 2020, Facebook absorbed Microsoft’s Mixer streaming platform, as the social networking giant aims to compete with Amazon’s Twitch in the video game streaming space.

New York Islanders Use Fiserv for Cashless Payments at UBS Arena

By Andrew Cohen

Financial services provider Fiserv has partnered with the New York Islanders to power cashless payments at the team’s new UBS Arena. The venue consists of more than 350 Fiserv-owned Clover point-of-sale machines that run on Bypass, the point-of-sale software owned by Fiserv.

 UBS Arena offers mobile app ordering, self-service kiosks and grab-and-go marketplaces powered by Amazon’s Just Walk Out artificial intelligence. Oak View Group led development of UBS Arena, which says it plans to make its operations carbon-neutral by 2024. 

 “We can think about plastics and single-use plastics and eliminating them from our buildings,” OVG CEO Tim Leiweke said at SBJ’s Dealmakers in Sports event. “We can think about recyclable water, we can think about how we ultimately go to solar power or wind power and replace gas.”

Air Jordan and His Son Jeffrey Jordan Launch Crypto Fan Token Startup Heir

By Dominic Massimino

Michael Jordan and his son Jeffrey Jordan have secured $10 million in seed funding to launch a crypto fan token startup called Heir. The membership-based platform will let fans exchange their tokens for exclusive content and interactions with athletes through product drops, digital goods and member only videos.

 The Heir NFT, set to launch in 2022, will be minted over the Solana blockchain. Thrive Capital led investment in the startup, with additional funding from New York Knicks EVP William Wesley, Solana Ventures, Alexis Ohanian and Chicago Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball, whose brother LaMelo plays for Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets.

 “With new frontiers in web3, the HEIR platform will deliver economic value to original culture creators and those who consume it early with new decentralized capabilities that drive ownership,” Heir writes on its website.

 Jordan—whose nickname was “Air” as he rose to global stardom during the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s that corresponded directly with the rise of the World Wide Web—makes his latest move into Web 3.0 after also being an investor in Dapper Labs, the creator of NBA Top Shot. Heir’s concept is similar to Spencer Dinwiddie’s Calaxy, another crypto app focused on connecting fan token holders with their favorite athletes and celebrities. 

 Heir is the first product launched as part of Heir, Inc., a holding company founded by Jeffrey Jordan that “will build culturally-inspired consumer brands rooted in tech and entertainment,” according to a press release. Heir’s co-founders include Jeron Smith, a former Nike brand manager who also co-founded Steph Curry’s production company Unanimous Media

Asensei Adds 3D Motion Capture to Coaching Products

By Joe Lemire

Connected-coaching company Asensei is adding a computer vision product to provide 3D motion capture data for its AI-powered coaching engine. This optical collection method, called (App)erture, complements its existing smart apparel offering, (App)arel. 

 Asensei’s (App)erture, which was released on Wednesday to all its software development kit (SDK) customers, is compatible with a smartphone camera or the cameras commonly found in other connected fitness products. (App)erture takes the video images and converts human motion into skeleton data that will track form, count reps and provide coaching cues. 

 Asensei says its computer vision solution creates a data set that’s compatible with its “Asensei inside” smart (App)arel. The new software also provides body part orientation—such as whether a palm is facing up or down—that can be critical to coaching feedback, rather than just tracking motion. 

 Asensei announced a partnership with Reform RX Pilates machines earlier this month, as well as Virus International this fall on a line of smart fitness attire. The company’s existing offerings include coaching products for strength training with bodyweight, kettlebells, dumbbells and barbells, as well as for the disciplines of yoga, Pilates, rowing, TRX and boxing. 

Ticket Marketplace Vivid Seats Moves Into Fantasy Gaming With Betcha Sports Acquisition

By Dominic Massimino

Online ticket marketplace Vivid Seats has bought fantasy sports and prediction app Betcha Sports for $25 million worth of equity in Vivid Seats’ company. The deal also includes potential for Vivid to pay Betcha up to $40 million in additional cash and equity based on performance incentives. 

 Betcha, which had its soft launch in 2020, offers social gaming features to let friends place bets together and compete in challenges. The app also targets specific peer groups to form a dedicated base of bettors to wager together. 

 Vivid Seats, whose existing ticket partners include ESPN and the Los Angeles Clippers, went public on the Nasdaq earlier this year through a merger with a SPAC led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly. Already alongside top ticket resellers such as Ticketmaster, StubHub and SeatGeek, Vivid now distinguishes itself as a fantasy sports operator in addition to its event tickets business. 

Social Fantasy Sports Startup FanUp Raises $4 Million

By Andrew Cohen

FanUp, a social media-styled fantasy sports app, has raised a $4 million seed round. Investors in the round included venture capital firm Accomplice, whose portfolio also includes DraftKings, Whoop and mobile gaming platform Skillz. 

 Since the FanUp iOS app launched in February, the company says it gained 100,000 users and more than $5 million in revenue. The app has a social feed to view picks from other users and a points system to award users for likes and comments left on posts. 

 Fantasy contests on FanUp span the NFL, NBA, MLB, Indian Premier League and esports. Earlier this year, DraftKings soft-launched a social network on its platform to offer more interaction among bettors and fantasy players. 

 ParkHub CEO George Baker is also an investor in FanUp. Others funding the startup include theScore investor John Albright, Alumni Ventures Group and the Carpenter family—who owned MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies from 1943 to 1981.